The British parliamentary foreign affairs committee met with Bahraini activists to discuss the relationship of the two countries. The committee questioned whether Britain has done enough as a friend of Bahrain to help move reform along or not.
Ali Al-Aswad, representing the political society Al Wefaq, said that “the UK’s reputation has been damaged in Bahrain by their response to [the crisis].” Of particular concern is the cold attitude of the British ambassador Iain Lindsay to human rights activists. Maryam Al Khawaja, representative for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, pointed out that “human rights activists have a lot of difficulty meeting the British embassy. I have colleagues who have been told flat out by the ambassador that he will not meet with them.”
And the embassy’s hostility towards human rights activists doesn’t end there. Al Khawaja said told the committee that “When Human Rights Watch put out a report about there being no progress and reform in Bahrain, the ambassador said that they was exaggerating amongst other things. When they responded to that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office here came out in support of the statement by their ambassador, and then afterwards had a different statement. But that is very telling of the situation on the ground when the British ambassador is attacking an international organisation that is documenting violations on the ground.”
Al Aswad and Al Khawaja urged parliament to take a more public approach at criticising Bahrain. Al Aswad said, “If the British regime says that the Bahraini regime is their ally, it’s a greenlight for Bahrain to abuse the people more. What is more effect is the public statements … we need more public statements from Britain.”
The parliamentary committee meeting is available to watch on here. It also heard statements by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and human rights lawyer Nigel Rodley, who participated in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which collected data on human rights abuses in 2011 and put forward recommendations to resolve issues.